Social Journalism: The New Media Fad?

Seconds after the Boston Marathon bombings, social media erupted.  In minutes, media giants like The Boston Globe were bringing in content from thousands of sources on the ground; verifying and broadcasting information at extraordinary rates.

This event is one of the truly profound examples of how social media is altering the journalism profession.  This convergence from traditional media – television & radio – to social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc – may prove to be even more threatening than when print journalism was overtaken by electronic journalism.  Will journalism keep moving towards the social media realm and how will it affect traditional media viewing and how people obtain their news?

Journalists have had to adapt quickly to this emergence of social media.  As this emergence came about, it didn’t happen overnight.  Since the nature of communication is such that individuals are more likely to source information from each other – rather than traditional news agencies – information sharing has become scattered.

The recent government shutdown received very high media buzz, especially on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  The story was told by millions of Americans posting photos and comments online.  On Facebook, people shared photos of themselves being turned away from national parks and walking away from empty federal offices.

National Zoo Twitter

Citizens vented their opinions and told their own stories about the affects of the government shutdown on social media sites, but does that mean that anyone can be a journalist?  More importantly, how will this shape the way journalists report and write stories?

A website that comes to mind when talking about Social Journalism is Huffington Post.  Huffington Post was founded by Arianna Huffington in May 2005.  It is an online news and blog site which offers a variety of content to cater to people’s interests.  Huffington Post certainly isn’t the only online Social Journalism site, but it was one of the first to present citizen journalism and position itself as a citizen-powered campaign news site.

Social media is also constantly mutating and evolving; just when you think you have nailed it, a new combination emerges, changing perceptions again.  But whatever the precise definition, there are three underlying reasons why mainstream media organizations are taking social tools and networks increasingly seriously:

  1. There is always someone who knows more than you do.
  2. Making better relationships with people in order to engage users and to be more loyal and spend more time on the site.
  3. Getting new users to engage with people whom are difficult to reach or reconnect with former users.
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With all this information on the power of social media and how it is currently affecting journalism, what can we expect in the future?  How will news reporters, editors and contributors adapt to these changes?

As someone who is currently working in the industry as an intern at a local news station (Eastern Iowa’s KWWL), I’ve seen what reporters and producers are doing in the newsroom.  KWWL utilizes many media platforms for their news, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  They frequently update their website with stories repurposed from their television broadcast or with exclusive content.

The big question is: Will traditional media survive?  I think traditional media will survive but journalists are going to have to adapt to using social media for their content.   Fox News adapted to the changes by recently adding the “Fox News Deck” where journalists can sift through Facebook and Twitter to keep track of emerging news.

Another change that I see in the future is in the journalism curriculum at many colleges.  Not only will students learn about how to write for traditional media but how to write for the web and how to utilize sources like Facebook and Twitter for the content.

Dakota Funk

3 thoughts on “Social Journalism: The New Media Fad?

  1. I think social journalism has many great features. It gives the public the ability to be apart of the story and give a first hand account through videos, and stories of their own,which can be shared at an instant so that news can be reported as it happens. Also i feel it keeps News Corporation more accountable to the public for the public has the ability to call out a story if it is false. however social journalism also has some faults.As you posed the question early,does social journalism make everyone a journalist? I feel not. The allowance for everyone to post stories, means that you can tap a wider variety of sources for the same news stories. More options does not necessarily mean that’s a good thing. For whatever reasons, many ordinary citizens may not have all the facts and may post stories with more errors then a traditional source, and this leaves the receiver with a greater risk of reading a story that is false. Secondly I think that having to compete with social media that can drop a story as soon as it happens, leads to traditional news sources not offering as quality as a story for they may be more worried about keeping up with other sources and constantly posting new stories.

  2. Social journalism is a great thing that allows people to instantly connect what’s going on in the world. People can follow along with events as they unfold in real-time, and we are able to seamlessly connect with people to share thoughts and ideas that cultivate points of view. While this is a great tool to use, this type of reporting should be taken with a grain of salt. Reddit, a very popular social news site, responded to the Boston bombings by having a massive search for the perpetrators by sharing different photos and video clips to investigate any match to the suspects description. In the end, several people were wrongly identified as suspects and caused innocent people to be wrongly accused of something terrible. Though the intentions were good, it turned into an ‘online witch-hunt which resulted in a lot of controversy. With all of that being said, I’m excited about social journalism and the types of changes we’ll see with news reporting in the coming years.

  3. I find myself getting a lot of my news updates through twitter because I follow KCRG’s and KWWL’s twitter pages. I rarely watch news on TV so this is my best outlet. They provide short descriptions of whats happening and send out links to the full story. But I also found out about the Boston Marathon bombings through twitter. If anything, social media journalism is just benefitting more traditional forms of journalism. People can become self reporters and let others know of current events and happenings that can benefit others.

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